By Samantha Rosen
In the pursuit of eliminating the anxiety and turmoil of the external world from their daily lives, the members of the University of Maryland Bhakti Yoga Club (BYC) meet weekly “to end the hectic week and start the weekend filled with love and happiness,” according to the BYC Facebook page.
Padma Malini Smith and her husband Deva Prastha Smith took over the club in 2009. Their goal was to give students an opportunity to learn about something that is not typically taught and available in the university and give students the opportunity to experience spiritual activity in the midst of their academic challenges.
“We love meeting with the students and encouraging them and seeing the change that takes place in their life when they start engaging in meditation,” Padma Malini Smith said. “We get to watch the change that takes place in their life when they start engaging in meditation, getting on a spiritual path and seeing the success they experience.”
The club’s weekly routine includes four parts, with the final goal being to connect with the supreme divine. It begins with Kirtan, which is meditation in musical form. This meditation, meant to glorify god through song, uses musical instruments. The club then moves into Japa, or personal meditation, where the Maha (Great) Mantra is chanted.
A lecture based on knowledge from Bhagavad Gita, ancient Hindu scripture, follows. Topics the group discusses range from inclusiveness and equality to personal balance and sustainability. To the end session, food that has been “cooked with love and gratitude and is accepted with love and gratitude” is served, according to Rashmi Sankepally, a BYC regular and PHD computer science student.
“We want to bring a change in people’s lives by transforming their hearts. There is the staying that change begins from the inside,” Sankepally said. “We try to do a transformation from the inside out to free people from within. You will have the clarity and maturity to be able to look at yourself with purity and with character.”
Every semester, the club holds a series of special events, including a Festival of India, guest speakers and a trip to a farm in Harrisburg farm. The Festival of India took place on April 18 in Hornbake Plaza. There were tents with free food, free henna tattoos, spiritual books and meditation.
On April 20, Guru Devamrita Swami lectured on how to use spirituality to live a simple, sustainable life.
The trip to the Gita Nagari Yoga farm took place on April 22. The group ate the organic food grown there, walked around on the 300 acres of land and played different games. The Gita Nagari Yoga farm embraces the same spiritual, sustained way of living that the BYC works toward.
“There is no other place like BYC,” Ph.D physics student Natalya Pankratova said. “Everyone is fair in what they think. You will never feel judged or misunderstood here.”
BYC meets every Friday at 6 p.m. in the Nanticoke Room (#1238) in Stamp. Undergraduate students, graduate students and those who do not attend this university are welcome.